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First in command
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Sep 06, 2013 | 1275 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela --- Sparks High School senior Arilene Pelayo has excelled in the Army JROTC program allowing her to become Battalion Commander for her final year, a task she hopes will bring success for the whole program.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela --- Sparks High School senior Arilene Pelayo has excelled in the Army JROTC program allowing her to become Battalion Commander for her final year, a task she hopes will bring success for the whole program.
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It was Friday afternoon, game day at Sparks High School, and though she was clad in her cheerleading uniform, Arilene Pelayo is a true JROTC cadet at heart.

In fact, the senior was recently named Battalion Commander for her fourth and final year in the Army JROTC, a position she admitted was not one she saw herself accepting early in her academic career in Sparks.

“I am not going to lie, I kind of got into RO to get the credits that I needed,” Pelayo said with a laugh. “That was how it started, with getting those two credits, and I thought it sounded cool. It was fun and I liked it. It was not how I expected it. I thought it was going to be like boot camp or something.”

The 17-year-old was the first to admit she had fallen victim to her preconceived notions. She was proven wrong and within a year found herself wanting more out of the program than just credits.

“It was completely the opposite,” she said. “It was a lot of fun doing marching and things like that. It was a lot of fun. I wanted to keep going. My grades were good and they saw potential in me. When I was moved up to 1st Sgt., that was when I realized I wanted be a leader and continue to help people and be a role model for them.

“I got along great with everybody and that really helped. I knew how to take charge but I also knew how to do it without them thinking I was mean or rude or too strict on them.”

The in-depth interview process to become Battalion Commander helped Pelayo become accustomed with public speaking, an act she struggled with previously, and gave her the opportunity to “stay on the right path and keep out of trouble.”

Now that she has taken the helm of the student battalion, she said she hopes for a big year out of her crew, who will be hosting the Cadet Olympics in April for the first time.

While JROTC is Pelayo’s primary school activity, the list does not stop there. She is a member of the National Honor Society, cheer squad, prom committee and marching band at Sparks High. She tries to make her presence known throughout school with volunteering and she said the programs she is involved in may pack her schedule but are worth it.

“I am always busy,” she said. “Last year I did band, cheer and color guard, so football games were really busy for me. I would have to go to one uniform, change, go perform, change again ... It was really hard. But, it showed myself, and others, that you can do more than one thing whether you are a football player or cheerleader, that you can have discipline and do all of them.

“My parents always say I should just rent a room and sleep there ‘because you are always there!’ A lot of people know me and that is a good thing. I am a really open person so if they want to come talk to me or ask me questions, they can. It is not just with RO. It is with anybody and I think that is important.”

Pelayo said she would like to study criminal justice or psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno in the future to become a family therapist or a crime scene investigator. She said following her high school graduation she plans to join the National Guard to help pay for school, which she realized is a perfect example of the influence the JROTC program has had on her life.

“I never thought about the Army,” Pelayo said. “When I started my freshman year, I said, ‘I will try RO, but I will never do the Army.’ As I started getting more into it, I saw that I liked it and it would help me with my college and my studies.”
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